Hugo Review: To Your Scattered Bodies Go By Phillip Jose Farmer

To your Scattered Bodies Go by Phillip Jose Farmer is the first in the Riverworld series of books. It tells the story of an artificially created world that is inhabited by humans from all of human history. This allows for interactions between people from every time and place without technology becoming the ultimately determining factor. The mystery of how they got there is also a major factor in the interactions allowing new religions and ideas to spring up and serving as the major driving force for the main characters in the book.

One of the things that makes this such an interesting book to me is that unlike so many other science fiction books which book which focus on the dangers of technology this strips away all of the technology and even all of the real need for human struggles by giving everyone enough room to live and everything that they need to survive. This eliminates all the outside forces. It even removes virtually every form of suffering and danger such as animals and disease.  Yet, almost immediately, people begin to fight to have power over other people for no reason except that they want to control other people

The main story is about a man named Richard Francis Burton one of billions who wake up on the edge of the river. After a short while they recognize that nearly everything will be taken care of for them. They are given food and clothing and have no real need for shelter and the land is generally the same everywhere yet almost immediately slavery begins as people are forced to work and each day when their food and supplies appear all but the minimum amount they need to survive is taken from them.

The men decide after some time to travel the river and try to understand what happened. At first this is reasonably easy as no one is organized but soon groups begin to organize. There are places that are good, but just as many where people attack them or want to capture them.  As the story advances they begin to learn a bit more about the creatures that put them there, though most of what is learned is conjecture or could simply be lies.

Which leads to the major problem that I had with this book. While I enjoyed it in a lot of ways it didn’t feel like a complete story. There is no real conclusion at the end of this story and too many questions left unanswered. I assume that this is because the author knew that he was going to write more which helped to explain that, but as a stand along novel it is hard to overlook this. For that reason I recommend To Your Scattered Bodies Go only to those people who are willing to continue reading the series if they like this first novel, because I assume that those answers do appear in later books though I have not read any of them and cannot speak to anything but my own assumptions.